The internet is being blamed for the number of youngsters who have been led to believe the Holocaust never happened.

More than a million men, women and children were sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during the Second World War.

When the camp was liberated, exactly 58 years ago today, there were a mere 7,500 survivors.

The hideous crimes committed at the camp and the courage of those who battled to survive inside will be remembered across the world today as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Victims of genocides across the globe, from Rwanda to Cambodia, will also be honoured as a mark of respect to all who have suffered such an atrocity.

While most people reflect on the tragedies of the past century, researchers at the University of Sussex have revealed children are being led to believe the Holocaust never happened - from the comfort of their own homes.

The pioneering work has demonstrated the extent of Holocaust denial on the internet, much of which is targeted at children.

Chana Moshenska and Rebekah Webb have spent two years researching online anti-semitism and have compiled a teacher's guide to warn schools of the dangers.

The web sites, many of which have been compiled by far Right political groups, allege there was no Nazi programme to exterminate the Jews and the figure of six million Jewish dead is an exaggeration.

Among the discoveries made by the pair, is a web site claiming there were no gas chambers or security fences at Auschwitz.

Another site proclaims Anne Frank's diary contained fictional entries and she survived living in a concentration camp.

The Holocaust can be studied by children as young as ten as part of the national curriculum. GCSE and A-level pupils learn about the Third Reich in history lessons.

The research will fuel concerns that students wishing to learn about the war will stumble across the sites and be convinced they are a truthful interpretation of events.

The researchers found many sites were targeted at children, with web designers using bright colours and uncomplicated language to get their message across.

Ms Moshenska, director of educational programmes at the university's centre of German-Jewish studies, said: "The sheer enormity of what happened in the Second World War in many ways defies comprehension, especially for those born long after the events took place.

"Holocaust deniers exploit this by asking questions such as 'Wouldn't it be nice if the Holocaust never happened?'"

The guide has been sent to 4,500 secondary schools nationwide and contains advice on how teachers can minimise the risk that sites pose for children.

The pair have recommended schools review their internet filter systems, usually designed to prevent children stumbling across pornography, to block access to the sites.

They are also calling on headteachers to ensure Holocaust denial is recognised as part of a school's anti-racist policy and that children are encouraged to discuss how the internet can be used as propaganda.

The research was carried out principally by Ms Webb, who found between 20 and 30 source, or primary, sites on the web.

These had links to thousands of other sites, many promoting extremist groups.

She said: "I was surprised by what I found. I expected racist ranting but what I found were a vast number of sophisticated-looking sites, which at first glance appeared reliable sources of information."

She searched by typing key words such as "Nazi" or "Auschwitz" into a search engine.

She said one of the most disturbing finds was a site written specifically for children, called Stormfront For Kids, which is based in the US. The site contained puzzles and games to entice youngsters.

She said: "Finding Stormfront was a real eye-opener to me. Until then, I had no idea sites were being designed specifically for children. I was shocked it was so easy to access."

Other sites tackled the issue by making themselves appear reputable and professional. They were often located by typing in the names of well-known anti-semitic writers or historians.

Ms Webb said: "The internet is used by far Right groups to make themselves appear politically acceptable. By making the sites look professional and using subtle language, these groups lure people into thinking they are reputable."

Holocaust denial is not illegal in the UK or the United States, unless it incites racial hatred, so sites cannot be shut down. The practice is only penalised in a handful of countries, including Germany.

The global reach of the internet means sites from across the world can be read by youngsters from their homes at the click of a button.

Ms Moshenska said: "The web and email have given birth to a new global rumour mill in which conspiracy theory and cultural myths can thrive.

"Appearances on the web are deceptive, allowing an individual to look like a corporation and an amateur to look professional."

Ms Moshenska and Ms Webb admit finding a balance between banning Holocaust denial and freedom of speech needs to be found.

Ms Webb said: "Any legislation would have a limited effect because the nature of the internet means people would always get around it. There is no use pushing the people who make these sites underground.

"Freedom of speech is very much entrenched in our society.

"What we need to do is counter these attitudes through education and challenge the notion that everything on the internet is the truth."

Ms Moshenska will discuss the research at an event called Then And Now: Survivors And Refugees 1933 - 2003 at the university on Wednesday.

The event will include lectures and testimonies from Holocaust survivors. For details, call 0208 381 4721.